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Creativity Confinement In The Soviet Union

1070 words - 4 pages

In a time period of strict rules of keeping creativity contained, Dmitri Shostakovich wrote under the pressures of the government-imposed standards of Soviet art. However, Shostakovich used his undeniable musical talent to compose pieces with components of sadness and darkness that were, during this time period, challenging the pride of the state. Therefore, he and his music were officially shunned. He continued composing, and began releasing pieces to the public that were the “standard” of Soviet art. At this time, only Shostakovich knew that buried within his seemingly prideful compositions were notes and rhythms of hidden messages challenging the state. Because of his rebellious upbringing and despite negative reactions of the public, Shostakovich continued to challenge the authority of the Soviet Union and fight for freedom of expression with his compositions which were full of mysterious and defiant energy.
Motivations for Shostakovich’s revolutionary musical changes were brought about by the confinement of the artistic society. Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union for most of Shostakovich’s lifetime, had very strict rules. All forms of art were required to reflect the pride of Russia. Opportunities for self expression were very slim. Therefore, there was a standard for music that was not to be modified or challenged. Shostakovich was motivated by the opportunity to challenge the state and create new, rigid compositions that were never heard of at that time, let alone attempted. Shostakovich relied on jagged rhythms, tonal ambiguity, as well as expressive dissonance to identify his music as undeniably his (Travisano 2). He believed that combining different styles and forms of music into an unidentifiable style would be the best way to create a mysterious genre of music. Shostakovich then used the style he created to mask his hidden musical codes. These codes were used to reflect inconsolable despair in Symphony Number Four, although it seemed to comply with Stalin’s artistic laws. However, some saw through his deceitful layers and the triumphant ending of his symphony rang hollow. After Shostakovich’s death, these suspicions were further evaluated and his musical codes were revealed. These codes were “ingeniously derived from the German translation of his name. In musical notation, S is E flat and H is B natural” (Classical FM 4). Although this code is seemingly undeniable in the current age of music, many still question what exactly Shostakovich was trying to convey if it was truly protesting the system he seemed to support (Tilson 1).
Shostakovich’s family placed importance on creating music. Shostakovich’s parents, Sofiya and Dmitri, were brought together by their mutual love for singing. Despite his family’s passion, Shostakovich was not immediately attracted to music. His parents did not force music upon him, and he grew to love playing and composing. He had an outstanding memory and astounded his mother with his skills on a daily...

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